RugbyU: Lomu Tips Olympic Breakthrough for Islanders
Suva, Fiji. All Blacks legend Jonah Lomu said Wednesday that the inclusion of rugby sevens at the Rio Olympics raised hopes Pacific island nations such as Fiji will finally end a long wait for gold at the Games.
Athletes in impoverished island states struggle with poor facilities and lack of quality opposition, and the only Olympic medal ever won by a Pacific nation is a silver claimed by Tongan boxer Paea Wolfgramm in 1996.
But Lomu, who was born in New Zealand and has Tongan heritage, said sevens’ debut at the 2016 presented the rugby-loving island nations with a more level playing field.
He tipped Fiji and Samoa as the main medal prospects in Rio, alongside England and reigning world sevens champions New Zealand.
“This is the thing about the sevens game as it raises our hope, especially in the Pacific, of winning a medal at the Olympic Games,” Lomu told the Fiji Sun newspaper.
“Sevens rugby is the game we all love to watch and it should be a hit in the Olympics.”
He said that while Polynesian players were renowned for their attacking flair, sides such as Fiji now also possessed the defensive qualities needed to succeed.
“Fiji will be a force to be reckoned with during the Olympics Games,” he said.
“[Fijians] have got high strength and speed. The key ingredients of sevens rugby is who has the best defence, because we can all attack but whoever puts on solid defence ends up winning.”
Lomu began his international career playing sevens before embarking on a stellar career with the All Blacks, notching up 63 Tests for New Zealand and a record of 15 tries at Rugby World Cups that still stands.